I considered shelling out the $400-$500 for a badge, but then I thought about how I had spent my most productive time the past few years, and it was mostly hanging out in the hallways, going to lunch with people I only see once or twice a year, and at the parties. Sure, without a badge I won’t be able to attend the panels, the awards, the official parties, and a few other things, but I realized I could also pretty easily find other people, places and parties to replace those official activities.
I started looking for resources online, but all I found was a few random blog posts – nothing comprehensive. So I figured I’d try to organize something myself – it would put me in the information flow, plus be a good networking opportunity, right?
I set up a Twitter ID and a Facebook group named SXSW Badgeless.
Well, obviously I hit an underserved niche. The SXSW Badgeless Facebook group had 1,000 members on the first day. Wow! And then 1,000 more the second day, and so on, and so on – 10,000 members in 10 days!
And then – BAM!
We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights:
[Group: SXSW Badgeless]
We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.
If you believe that we have made a mistake in removing this content, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Facebook Team
OK, let’s be clear here…
First of all, naming a group “SXSW Badgeless” constitutes fair use of the trademark:
- First and foremost, the use of “SXSW” is descriptive. How can you possibly organize a group of people who don’t have a SXSW badge without referencing SXSW?
- The purpose of the use was not for profit.
- The use doesn’t damage SXSW in any way. It doesn’t keep anyone from buying a SXSW badge – it’s merely grassroots community organization of those people who are making their own decision not to.
But Facebook doesn’t seem to care about any of that. I wasn’t given any opportunity to explain myself – or change the name of the group – before they shut down the group. They have no process for intellectual property conflict resolution.
I tried writing them back (twice), as they said to do, but I still have received no response from Facebook.
Here’s what really gets me…
See that? 486 Results!
Clearly, SXSW Badgeless was unfairly and prejudicially singled out. Basically, it got big enough to get on their radar, and they didn’t like it. Too bad.
I’ve been wronged, as have the other 10,000 people who wanted to use Facebook to communicate with each other.
But I’m not willing to sacrifice my Facebook account on the altar of fair use righteousness. So instead I bought the domain unSXSW.com and have set up a site there to aggregate all the information I can find about unofficial (and official, but open-to-the-public) activities during SXSW. You can also follow @unSXSW on Twitter.
For the record, I love SXSW. It’s a great event, and I wish them well. But I also hate brand bullies and won’t cave to them. I understand and support intellectual property rights, but not when they impinge on the 1st Amendment.